Traipsing Around – Part 4: Roadtrip to Santa Marta

Fleas.
I just discovered an entire colony of them in the apartment where we’ve been staying; and of course their breading grounds happened to be right under the area where I sleep. I now fear I have unwillingly become a symbiotic ecosystem.

I’m pretty sure that’s the only bad news I’m disposed to sharing, though. The past couple of weeks here in Bogota have been mind-blowingly outstanding. At one point, we got to explore a massive cathedral carved deep into an old salt mine under a mountain on the outskirts of the city. Think of the underground Dwarf kingdoms from The Lord of the Rings. That’s pretty much what it looked  like. I was left utterly enthralled. Could have stayed there all day.

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(Sorry for the low quality of the photos. It was difficult to get a good shot in the poor light. I’d like to say I have a fancy-shmancy EOS Rebel T2i; but it’s just a regular camera, and it’s really not even mine.) Here is one of my best, though:

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I personally have driven around almost the entire city by now, braving the insane traffic and everything. We’ve also visited many amazing places, seen countless beautiful sights,  and eaten heaps of exquisite food — all in the company of marvelous friends.
Oh, and I got to hang out with an ostrich.

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Aside from all that awesomeness, we’ve been experiencing huge amounts of supernatural encounters in several different forms. We’ve been praying more and more for people in the streets and also within the family we’re staying with; and Sam and I in particular have seen various people healed on the spot. Both of us have literally watched the Holy Spirit affect people and move in ways that neither of us have ever seen before.

Back just two weeks into the trip, we all three knew without a doubt that even if we had returned at that moment, we would have been changed for life. It’s really difficult to summarise just how life-impacting it has been up til now. Things have been happening to us that we honestly never considered would happen on the trip — massively important things that are marking our lives. In a way, I could also say that this past week has been the most difficult one for me so far, just because of the severity of the decisions I’ve been faced with.

Finally, though, this was our last full day in Bogota. Early tomorrow morning we head out by car to Santa Marta with Rosita (the lady we’ve been staying with) and one of her sons, Pedro. It’s a two-day drive (and I’ve been told we’re even going to be picking up their dog along the way.) This area is supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of all Colombia. Santa Marta is actually north of Bogota; so I’m guessing that after about three weeks of working there, we’ll head back down south again through the length of the country and further onward to Ecuador, Peru, and still-potentially Bolivia or Chile. There’s been a lot of progress in our plans lately; and even though our trip is really only just starting, we’re beginning to sight our end goals and even setting a return date.

We’ve all grown dearly close to this family, each in our own special way; and despite then how eager I am to continue the journey, I’m bearing the sadness again of having to say goodbye to those we’re leaving behind.

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Ah, one more thing. Here’s a link to Chrystel’s blog too, in case you’re keen on reading about it from her perspective:
http://chrystelsanchez.blogspot.com/2014/08/john-1412-14.html

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Ex!to

No, that’s not a typo.
It’s actually the name of the grocery store near to where we’re staying.

I was walking through it yesternight carrying milk and bananas in my arms when I saw a man with crutches standing in line at one of the cash registers.
“Ooh! Jolly good! A sick person. I’ll swallow my nerve-wracking fear and go pray for him.”

I do oftentimes still get nervous and shaky when I pray for strangers to be healed.

Anyway, I walked up to him and asked what was wrong with his leg. He gave me a long, elaborate, medical-field-lingo sort of answer that I basically understood to mean that he’d fractured his knee playing fútbol.
I asked if he wouldn’t mind if I prayed for it to be healed. He said no; so I knelt down and just barely touched his knee with my fingers. My hand was still shaking, and my heart had decided it wanted to see the action and tried to pound its way through my chest.

I said a quick little awkward prayer and asked if he felt anything different. The guy looked at me and in his words said he felt an energy or something in his knee. I was like, “Ooh. That’s good. Really good.”
So I prayed again, thanking God for what was already happening, and requested Him to take the pain away. When I asked him again, the man said that he still felt the energy or something similar to electricity in his leg.
It was encouraging, and I was excited, so I told him I would pray one more time. Again, I just asked the Holy Spirit to touch him and take all the pain. This time, he paused for a moment, stretched his leg, and put some weight on it. He remarked that he had not been able to do that before. I said it was fantastic.

He asked me then why it was that I prayed. I kind of stuttered something about how in the Bible Jesus told us to go out to pray for people and that He’d respond if we did; and I mentioned that there have been heaps of times where I’ve seen God heal various other things when I asked Him to.
(It’s a good things the man was actually able to experience the power for himself, because otherwise he probably wouldn’t have gotten anything out of my blubbering.)

The guy then just said thank you; he shook my hand, said good bye, and I left.

Reminiscing the Leap

Alas, we have arrived upon the brink of the one month anniversary of our journey. Our leap of faith. Some people, including myself at various points, did not think we would last this long. It’s mind-blowing and fantastic, though, and almost a little hard to believe.

We still look back and remember our initial thoughts and feelings when we first started. In all truth and honesty, it was frightening. Some of the heaviest moments were on the car ride through Costa Rica and the first bus ride into Panama. We were confined for long hours with our swirling thoughts and questions. It wasn’t until those moments that it finally hit us and we realised what we were getting ourselves into.
I remember thinking it: “Blimey. What on earth am I doing? How is this going to work?”
Three people barely even out of our teen years trekking through countries we’d never been to, without any real idea of where we were headed, hardly a notion of what we were doing, and definitely not enough money to feel comfortable about it.
And yet — we each gripped tightly to our courage and plunged forward. To be completely honest, the only thing I felt I could really hold onto was the belief that God had called me into this; and with that notion I told Him over and over again that I was only doing this because I was trusting in Him and trusting that this was a good idea. That was a comfort, though, as I left my home and family and headed into the unknown.
There were heaps of different variables and aspects and speculations that could have dissuaded us from actually moving forward; but like all the great adventure stories, we stuck to what was in our hearts and continued.

And I’m speaking very seriously. From a common practical standpoint, it seemed very foolish. However, from everything we’ve been through, all we’ve seen, everything we’ve learned, the people we’ve met, the way we’ve grown, the lives impacted, the miracles, the results — from all that’s happened, this trip has proved itself to be far more significant than just an audacious idea. Our faith was well-placed, we have been completely cared-for, and the three of us have thrived exuberantly.

By the way, if you’ve prayed or have been praying for us and the trip, thank you sincerely. I cannot underestimate the impact that any amount or type of prayer has on everything that goes on. Know that we really appreciate it.

Julio

Sam, Chrystel, and I have been trying to come up with team nicknames for each other; and so far, we’ve only been able to think of an appropriate one for Sam:
Shotgun Sam.
We gave it to him because somehow he always ends up sitting in the front seat of every taxi we take, despite the fact that he isn’t completely fluent in Spanish yet.

Anyway, several days ago, when we were still in Panama City, the three of us had been waiting at a bus stop for the bus that would take us to the airport where we’d planned to search for our tickets into Colombia. Whilst we waited, we started talking to a fellow named Julio (pronounced hoo-leeo, not joo-leeo.) I think he was in his early twenties, if I remember correctly. Gradually, our conversation came around to a knee injury that he had had some years ago and how he was still suffering from it — especially since he worked as a security guard, which meant he spent most of his day standing up.
Of course, immediately the thought came to my mind that we should pray for his knee to be healed, but I procrastinated acting upon it. Fortunately, though, both Chrystel and Sam had the same idea, and Sam suggested it. So we asked Julio if he wouldn’t mind if we prayed for him.

“Uh. Okay. Yeah, sure. Go ahead.”

I gently touched his knee with my hand and briefly asked God to heal it. Then I looked up at him and asked if he felt anything different.
His eyes got really wide and with an astonished tone he said, “What did you just do to me?”

I took that as a sign that he must have felt something different.

“Nothing,” I said. “I told you I was going to pray for God to heal it.”

He still seemed like he didn’t quite know what to make of it; and right after that, our conversations drifted to other things, just before the bus finally showed up. He actually helped us a little bit with finding our way to the airport. When we reached our stop, we said goodbye to him and parted ways.
Even if we don’t personally see him again, I’m quite certain his life had to have been significantly impacted from then on.

Traipsing Around – Part 3: Bogotá

Sam: “I should have danced with that guy yesterday.”

Me: “Uh. I’m pretty sure that was a girl.”

Don’t try to figure it out. That was another one of those you-had-to-be-there moments. It was hilarious though, and it actually made sense at the time.

~

In a way, this past week here in Bogotá has felt almost like a vacation.
Almost.
Since we arrived we’ve been abundantly cared for in every way. It was quite a drastic difference from our time in Panama. Here’s the account of our entry:

We had decided to sleep at the airport in Panama City the night before we left because I’d wanted to go up to the ticket counter to change a teeny-tiny mistake that I had made on one of the tickets. After already having tried everything I could to fix it myself, I was told that there was virtually nothing that could be done for it; and since our plane was about to depart in a few hours, we had to make a quick decision. There was no way we could leave Chrystel behind, so we ended up buying a new ticket that cost more than our previous three tickets combined.
I don’t think I’ve ever had that much difficulty trying to enter a country before. Even when we arrived at the airport in Bogotá, we almost weren’t allowed to get out because I didn’t know the foreseen address and had almost no way of finding out what it was.
Nevertheless, we finally did make it into Colombia, exhausted and exorbitantly exuberant.

Since our arrival, we’ve been staying with the family of my friend Carolina whom I met nearly three years ago in Argentina. They have all been beyond generous and loving. In fact, they’ve been over-abundantly spectacular and have gone above and beyond in how much they’ve taken care of us.   We’ve been fed more than we can eat; we’ve gotten to ride all around Bogotá and visit various gorgeous places; we’ve been able to spend heaps of quality time with both their immediate and extended family. You see, Sam and Chrystel and I had had no definite previous plan of how long we were going to stay in Bogotá once we got here. We figured we’d just feel it out day by day, as we’d been doing so far; and in turn, we’ve ended up staying for over a week.
The reason for that, though, is that when we first arrived, Carolina’s older brother, Juan Pablo, had proposed to us the notion of heading up to Santa Marta, on the northeast coast of the country, to help his father with a house that’s he’s currently working on. (He’s had it in mind to construct it as a missionary hosting home but also use it for his family from time to time when it’s unoccupied.) We’ve been told over and over that Santa Marta is a beautiful place, with mountains and beaches and a city teeming with possibility. We were immediately excited about the idea; and we nearly made up our minds to go, right then and there.
Carolina’s mom offered to let us ride with her up to Santa Marta, since she had already been planning to go anyway. As it is, then, we’re only waiting for her to find a new apartment for her girls to live in whilst they attend their universities here in Bogotá. Once she finds an apartment, and once we help her move, we’re off on the long drive across the country to our next destination.

Despite how relaxing it has been, our time here hasn’t been without its own measure of difficulty. In Panama, our struggles were mostly external or physical, such as having to sleep sitting up in bus terminals, getting lost in big cities, or going up to three days without a shower; here in Bogotá, however, we’ve been faced more with emotional and spiritual strife. Degrees of discouragement and uncertainty have imposed themselves upon us, but I can confidently say we’re holding our ground in terms of staying focused and always making the most of every situation we’re in, at any moment. We’ve been  deliberate about this in the past few days. Sam and I in particular have had some very peculiar conversations with some very peculiar people. We’ve all experienced a couple blatant miracles; we’ve been a part of changing some lives; and all three of us have grown dearly close to Carolina’s family, not to mention each other as well. We’ve drunk gallons of chocolate milk, hiked up to churches on the tops of mountains, spent time with sheep, made friends with homeless people, and all around have had a fabulous time so far. We’ve each concluded that it will be very hard to leave when the time comes.

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